Dietary habits play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and quality of life.
Food habits and menstrual dysfunction in young women are interrelated.
This relationship can be emphasized by studying their dietary habits that eventually give rise to gynecologic disorders such as irregular menses, dysmenorrhea, and premenstrual syndrome1.
Moreover, factors such as body weight, hypoleptinemia, abnormal eating behaviors, diet quality, calorie intake, and body mass index (BMI) determine the etilogy of menstrual dysfunction and reproductive health of women2.
Hormones such as progesterone and leptin independently influence dietary intake behavior in women.
Fluctuations in hormonal levels are known to influence the menstrual cycle2,3.
Dietary habits affecting women's menstrual cycle
The following are certain dietary habits that might affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Fasting and refraining the body from daily nutritional needs is a risk factor for the development of menstrual disturbance in young women1.
The serum progesterone concentration decreases in women who fast, and duration of the luteal phase becomes shorter compared with the normal luteal phase length in their menstrual cycles (11-17d).1,4
Fasting can usually modify the body’s metabolic parameters such as glucose level, insulin level, and the leptin diurnal rhythm.
The leptin level gradually declines after 6 to 8 hours of fasting, which in turn affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis of the body.
In such cases, the hypothalamus releases excess luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone in the pituitary gland, giving rise to steroidogenesis4.
History of Dieting
For social acceptance adolescents tend to follow dietary restrictions and lose weight without having sound knowledge of BMI and age-specific body weight.
Those who practice dieting tend to have a higher incidence of irregular menstruation because of the dietary and nutritional limitation that induces ovarian dysfunction.
Adolescents with a history of dieting are more prone to dysmenorrhea despite not having irregular menses.
Therefore, dietary control during adolescence can be considered to have long-lasting adverse effects on the reproductive function in young women and can also act as a trigger for the subsequent development of organic gynecologic diseases5.
Low Calorie Intake
Calorie intake has its own effect on the reproductive hormone cycle. For example, extreme restriction on calorie consumption along with weight loss and nutritional deficiencies can lead to amenorrhea.
Calorie restriction can lead to the development of organic gynecologic disorders such as fibroids, menopause, and ovarian cysts that may further affect the reproductive system of women1.
A short luteal phase in the menstrual cycle can be an aftereffect of low-calorie diet1.
It can also alter hormone synthesis, which is usually controlled by the pulsatile release of hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone in the pituitary gland.1,6
Excess Calorie Intake
Excess calorie intake gives rise to conditions such as increase in body weight and obesity, which are also related to irregular menstrual cycles.
A disturbed menstrual cycle along with obesity reduces fertility and increases the chances of developing hormone-sensitive cancers such as endometrial cancers in young women.
The onset of obesity due to excessive calorie intake during an early age can significantly affect menstruation in the later reproductive age. Obese women tend to have abnormal serum levels of the sex hormone-binding globulin and sex steroid hormones1.
A low-fat diet can help increase the serum sex hormone-binding globulin concentration and reduce body weight and BMI.
It can also help reduce pain intensity, which is usually experienced by women with moderate-to-severe dysmenorrhea7.
Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Unsaturated fatty acids are involved in certain complex functions such as endogenous bioregulation, fat synthesis, gene transcription, signal transduction, and protein formation.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely ω-6 fatty acids, contribute to the formation of proinflammatory eicosanoids, such as prostaglandin E2, thromboxane A2, and leukotriene B4 that can further aggravate symptoms of menstrual conditions such as dysmenorrhea1.
ω-3 Fatty acids are another group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that mainly include eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid that contribute to the formation of less-inflammatory eicosanoids such as prostaglandin E3, thromboxane A3, and leukotriene B5.
Intake of food items that contain ω-3 fatty acids such as fish, canola oil, and wheat germ oil can help reduce symptoms of menstrual condition such as dysmenorrhea.1
Nutritional deficiency is the result of lack of awareness and education among menstruating girls and women.
Unhealthy dietary habits that lead to nutritional deficiencies can give rise to menstrual irregularities that can hamper the daily lives of women and young girls.
Menstrual irregularities due to nutritional deficiencies should be addressed to avoid reproductive health problems.1,8
Fujiwara T, et,el. Open Food Sci J. 2007;1:24-30.
Yavangi M. Iran J Repod Med. 2013:11(2):145-150.
Araidi, et al. Res J Obstet Gynecol. 2017;10(1):6-10.
Mesen TB, Young SL. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2015;42(1):135-151.
Fujiwara T. Rep Sys Sex Dis Int J. 2017;1(2):00010.
Rotstein A. Sex hormone synthesis, regulation, and function. http://www.pathophys.org/. Accessed January 17, 2019.
Barnard ND, et al. Obstet Gynecol. 2000;95(2):245-250.
Jahangir A. Int J Nutr Sci Food Technol. 2018;4(3):27-31.
Source: Evecare. Dietary Habits and Their Effects on Menstrual Cycles in Young Women. 2019;6(4):1.
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